Monday, January 19, 2004

Oil Alone

The government announced last week that our military mission to Georgia will continue. We have no intention of leaving Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, or Tajikistan, either; and while the State Department recently made some mild noises about the appalling civil rights situation in Uzbekistan, it is unlikely that President Islam Karimov needs to take that threat very seriously–consider the source. The Tenth Mountain Division will undoubtedly continue to bolster his regime from its Halliburton-built base in sunny Khanabad until and unless a once or future American Petropresident, hard up for useful enemy, decides to promote another one of its clients to regional Hitler, a Karimov being, as it were, the larval form of a Saddam Hussein.

Now it is perfectly true that the U.S. maintains garrisons and bases all over the place so that it would be an error to claim that our deployments are all simply a function of our national addiction to liquid fuels. In part, our presence reflects other specific, limited national interests as well as generalized imperial momentum. The domination of oil over our foreign policy is quite extraordinary, however. Which partly explains why everybody seems so determined to deny it.

I don’t doubt that a considerable range of motives lay behind the Conquest of Iraq. For example, while I expect the sentient members of the regime were well aware that Hussein had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11 and represented no plausible threat whatsoever, I can well believe that many of them were sincere about exporting Democracy. They certainly didn’t want to leave any of it lying around here. Preoccupation with Israel also played a role in maintaining a focus on the Near East. The Fundamentalist are hung up on screwy apocalyptic dreams while the Neocons, whether Jewish or not, feel a powerful affinity for the voluntarist strain in Zionism. Nevertheless, neither idealism or religious fanaticism can explain why we were willing to spent $200 billion and utterly outrage international law to squash Iraq; and we aren’t dug in in Bharain, Diego Garcia, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Azerbaijan, Georgian, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan out of the goodness of our heart. We are there for the oil. Unfortunately, this monomania expresses far more than the quirky fact that American politics has come to be utterly dominated by current and former oil executives. Behind the American government is an unsupportable form of life dependent on cheap gas. Bush is the blister, not the virus.

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